Nojiri Yasuhiro: Why Did People Make Fake Documents in the Early Kinsei Era

2:00-2:30 Prof. Nojiri Yasuhiro, Meiji University

"Why Did People Make Fake Documents in the Early Kinsei Era?”

Prior to Japan’s early modern period, a large number of written historical documents were created. Today we call them “old documents,” komonjo, and they are investigated and categorized by historians. Research begins with the cataloging process. When a catalogue is created, we gain a sense of the individuals that brushed the documents and the organizations that catalogued them. And by reading the contents of komonjo, we can ascertain the historical realities of the time.

When investigating and categorizing such documents, from time to time scholars encounter strange komonjo. For instance, there are documents in which the contents clearly diverge from reality, such as false genealogical or inheritance records. These are called “faked documents,” gimonjo. I am interested in why such documents were made in the early modern era and what the reasons tell us about society at the time.

In this presentation I focus on a strange village record that bears a Nara-period date, Tenpyô 1 (729) but which was actually created in the sixteenth century. What is this record and its background? The contents claim to specify the village’s boundaries. Although the villagefaced the sea,  the majority of the district was mountainous, and land-use rights for the mountains were frequently contested by a neighboring village. During the Warring States era in the latter half of the sixteenth century, even though the state of judicial affairs was gradually being put in order, the proprietor responsible for making judicial decisions had changed. These were the sorts of geographic and social circumstances that led to the creation of faked documents.